The Haunting (1963 film)

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A Scene from The Haunting (1963)

The Haunting, AKA The Haunting of Hill House (1963 film); the inferior 1999 remake is probably best avoided

Summary

"An evil old house, the kind some people call haunted, is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored. Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone." A scientist doing research on the paranormal invites two women to a haunted mansion. One of the participants soon starts losing her mind.

Details

  • Release Date: 1963
  • Country/Language: UK/US, English
  • Genres/Technical: Horror (American gothic, psychological horror), black-and-white
  • Runtime: 1 hr 52 min
  • Starring: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Writer: Nelson Gidding (screenplay), Shirley Jackson (story)
  • Producer/Production Co: Argyle Enterprises
  • View Trailer: (link), (link)
  • TVTropes Page: (1963), (1999)
  • IMDB Page: (1963), (1999)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: (not rated) (perhaps equivalent to a PG for )

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

The author of this famous American Gothic haunted house story, Shirley Jackson, was quite familiar with the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and there are hints at this influence in the strange angles and abnormal geometry of the house, and in a couple of vaguely-sketched (and frightening) scenes of cosmic horror found only in the novel (such as a scene where the two female investigators walk through a garden behind the house at night, with the garden's description becoming more and more unearthly and surreal, as the women slowly begin to realize that they are being followed by some cosmically terrifying Thing which is never fully described and never mentioned again), the tension between the scientifically explainable and terror of the unknown, and perhaps in the form of the overlapping accounts in dialogue and thought of various unreliable narrators which leave the audience to piece together a frightening but incomplete truth from an enigmatic collection of subtle clues. Ultimately, the film is not very "Lovecraftian" (nothing overtly supernatural happens in this film that could not be explained away as someone's imagination or a hoax perpetrated by one or more of the characters), beyond, perhaps, a weird, dreamlike atmosphere of unreality to the bizarre setting, but the film is a classic that would be of interest to fans of horror films in general, if not fans of Lovecraft's brand of American Gothic horror.

The execrable 1999 remake (and perhaps the two Stephen King remakes) does actually include a cartoonish sort of Lovecraftian abomination, though this would still qualify the remakes as only of interest to completists, at best.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Almar Haflidason at the BBC Movies Review (4/5 Stars) (link) - "...the star of the film is undoubtedly the house, and once inside it begins not only to haunt the characters but the viewer too. ... director Robert Wise dedicates the rest of the movie to establishing genuine fear that's punctuated with carefully timed shocks."
  • Richard Scheib at the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (5/5 Stars) (link) - "The shocks that Robert Wise crafts in The Haunting are some of the most sophisticated and finely constructed ever placed on film. Like the best of Lewton, all ghosts in The Haunting take place entirely by suggestion..."

Synopsis

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

Dr. John Markway, an anthropologist with an interest in psychic phenomena, takes two specially selected women to Hill House, a reportedly haunted mansion. Eleanor, a lonely, eccentric woman with a supernatural event in her past, and the bold Theodora, who has ESP, join John and the mansion's heir, cynical Luke. They are immediately overwhelmed by strange sounds and events, and Eleanor comes to believe the house is alive and speaking directly to her.


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • A couple of remakes were made, but were generally not as warmly received as the original film:
    • The Haunting (1999), a troubled remake briefly worked on by Wes Craven
    • Rose Red (2002), an attempted remake by Stephen King
    • The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003), a prequel to Rose Red by Stephen King
  • The execrable 1999 remake does actually include a sort of Lovecraftian abomination (the two Stephen King films might also make token nods toward Lovecraftian horror).


Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes

  • This film is one of the inspirations for the ubiquitous Call of Cthulhu scenario, "The Haunting"...